thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

PLL Roundtable, Season 2 Episode 10: “Touched by an ‘A’-ngel”

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on August 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm

This week, Phoebe was away on wedding escapades. The rest of us (Melissa and Sarah) sat down to discuss massages we never ever want, the future of Dr. Anne, and why nobody should ever tell Aria anything.

1.  Not a question – but – SPOUT HORROR ABOUT THE MASSAGE SCENE.  That was soooooo awful.

Melissa: I knew from the moment that the gift certificate came out that this massage scenario would somehow take a turn for the worst.  At first, I thought they were going to play up the sibling rivalry angle and have Hannah “steal” the massage, though really, I don’t know how that would have been dramatic.  Then again, we did get a country club equestrian sibling rivalry scene, so my instincts aren’t entirely off.

I think A massaging Emily is incredibly horrifying because it puts A and one of the little liars in the same room together.  I mean, I know – A was at the dance with them in Season 1 – and A was right there, helping Spencer when things went down in the bell tower with Ian.  A has been lurking right outside their very windows!  However, it’s especially horrifying to have A actually touching the girls.  Creep factor of 12.  At first, when I saw A come in, I was afraid that A was going to start rubbing HGH cream on Emily again.  Thank God that didn’t happen, at least.  But still – the implicit threat of violence (how easy it is to get my hands around your neck) was horrifying.  Hannah may have been run down, but it didn’t have the creepy violence-directed-against-women feel of this encounter.  Why the violent threat?  Because Emily was about to tell?  Or does A really have it out for Emily — so many particularly brutal threats and manipulations seem to be coming her way lately.  And her body has become A’s pawn – keeping her in Rosewood; getting her off the swim team by affecting her pain cream; now this…

Sarah: Agreed! So violating and terrible. Poor Emily.

2.  How did you feel about Spencer going to Ezra re: the Jason situation?  How did you feel about Ezrr’s response?  About Aria’s mom’s response?  (I’m really bad at remembering the parents’ names).

Melissa: I had mixed feelings about this.  Spencer can be a wee bit controlling.  On the other hand, Aria can be a way bit dense.  So I can see why she thought it was a necessary measure.  Though with all her crafty planning skills, I think she could have come up with a better plan than “car outside the school.”  Frankly, I was surprised that Aria listened to Ezra; she hasn’t seemed particularly taken with him lately, except for when she’s straddling him in his office.  Maybe she feels scared of Jason too and was just happy for a graceful out that didn’t require her to say, “I still am slightly afraid that you will throttle me in my sleep with a strange surveillance camera tripod or something.”

Poor Spencer.  Always wanting older men.  Or at least getting caught for it!  I hope Aria’s mom doesn’t spread any rumors.  With Spencer’s track record (Ian; Wren) I think people would be likely to believe that she had a fling with Fitz.  And I don’t want anything to ruin the Tobey magic.

Sarah: I get why Spencer was freaked about Aria spending time with Jason, but I think it was probably a mistake to go to Ezra—not so much as the boyfriend as going to anybody in order to try to make decisions about Aria’s life. That said, I totally think Spencer’s heart was in the right place (as Aria clearly does too in their super-sweet apology scene). Ezra, I think, handled the news pretty well by going straight to Aria and being concerned without being overly jealous. As for Ella, her reaction to the idea of Ezra and Spencer is understandable—but a part of me wonders if she’s not subconsciously projecting the truth onto a different girl in order to avoid the truth…
3.  Why is Aria so bad at blowing their cover?  Do you think she should have told Jason everything?  Did she put Spencer in danger?
Melissa: Oh Aria.  Now, I know that direct communication is a good ideal.  And Sarah, I know you want to give Jason the benefit of the doubt.  But still.  Marching up to Jason and demanding that he explain why he had these pictures that she only knows about because her friends broke in…and then giving him their names…was, like, the stupidest move anyone’s made on this show yet.  Stupider than turning the trophy in to the police, because they are legally bound to protect and serve…and he’s legally bound to, like, be a creepy neighbor and look smolderingly at the camera.  Or Aria, if we go with verisimilitude or what have you.  But I digress.  I groaned aloud.  Phoebe said last week that people should just talk and solve problems, and this is like the one time that should not have been the tactic.  Like the only one.
Sarah: Ha! She is terrible at secrets. It is amazing that she hasn’t written a sky message for Ezra yet, or started a Jenna Thing zine. I don’t think she should have tipped Jason off that her friends were in the shed for sure, though I don’t think she was thinking very clearly at the time…
4.  Why doesn’t Jason drink?  Do we know that already?  What about the Jason/Garrett relationship?
Melissa: I don’t remember this development from before.  But it was interesting when Garrett offered Jason a beer and then was all like, “Oh yeah.  I forgot.  Bwahahahaha.  Slurp.”  Maybe Jason was blackout drunk the night of Ali’s murder and that’s why he doesn’t drink anymore.  I have no good conjectures about what’s going on with Garrison and Jason, but I’m intrigued to see how this develops.  Their interaction made me think that Garrett is more evil than Jason…and that perhaps Jason is forced to silence, just like the PLLs are.
Sarah: I’m guessing it’s because he’s an ex-druggie and now he’s 100 percent sober? But I’m not sure. I thought the last scene with Jason and Garrett was intriguing and IMPOSSIBLE TO READ. Is Garrett mocking Jason when he offers him a beer or did he really forget? Is he trying to threaten Jason? WHAT matters more than ever now that he’s a cop? So many questions…
5.  Will Aria tell her parents about her and Ezra now?
Melissa: No, because that would make things too easy.  I kinda wonder if Aria’s mom has a hunch, though – the way she came back into the room to tell Aria that she would feel betrayed if she found out Ezra had a relationship with a student.
Sarah: I don’t think so, no. It’s way more fun to talk about telling her parents and then not do it, because if she and Ezra were ever public what would they have to talk about?
6. Is Jason being on the level about the Aria photos, or is the idea that Ali—not Jason—took them just a clever cover story?
Melissa: I don’t believe it.  It’s just hard for me to believe that Jason wouldn’t take pictures of the girls after his association with Ian AND his inclusion in a group called “We See All.”  Seems like a stalker move to me.  Also, we haven’t seen any lesbian-interest overtones between Aria and Ali – if the pictures were of Emily, I might believe it.  But why would Ali take pictures of Aria’s lips?  Though if she did, it would be an interesting plot development, because I think Aria’s relationship with Ali is the least developed of all 4 girls.
Sarah: I’m divided on this question – it seems like Jason’s story of developing Ali’s creepy pictures of Aria sleeping as a present doesn’t really make a lot of sense, because that is not a normal reaction. On the other hand, Jason tends to verge off the beaten path, so maybe. But I think it’s more likely that the pictures are a) his or b) perhaps A’s, and A planted them for Jason to find and think that they were Ali’s.
7. Why is Emily so stressed right now again? Is it the lack of swimming that’s freaking her out versus before when it was all the swimming pressure?
Melissa: I think Emily’s stress is really because of A, now.  A created the swimming stress for her, too.  In Season 1, she stopped being a stressed swimmer and started swimming for fun again.  But getting tricked into needing a scholarship put a lot of pressure on Emily’s swimming again.  Now, taking away swimming has made it clear just how much control Ali has over the girls’ lives.  She can give a scholarship and she can take it away; she can control where the girls are geographically, and she can control their bodies.  I think Emily is stressed because she needs to reassert control over her life, and that’s why she’s thinking about talking to the shrink.
Sarah: Yeah, I think it’s a combination of missing swimming plus losing Samara (at least temporarily) due to A’s mind games plus the stress of being a houseguest and far from her family… I can see how all that would get to a girl. Oh, and the steroid blackmail! I’d be stressed too.
8. What’s the endgame of Hanna’s evil stepsister, and also is she being played by a different actress now?
Melissa: She is definitely played by a new actress – the old one was a little too spacey-sweet, like a member of the Royal Family or something.  She could never have delivered those awful/ridiculous lines about training Hannah like a horse.  I do wonder what the girl’s endgame is: trying to steal Hannah’s father’s affection?  And does she know that she’s going up against a girl that’s been blackmailed (potentially) by a killer?  Because, bitch, please.  Also, do you think A made the intercom broadcast Hannah’s hate speech?  Because if so, that A definitely covers some ground.

I like that the casting change resembled the casting change for Jason – going for sexier and creepier.  Oh, and blonder.

Sarah: She is being played by someone a bit sleeker and country-clubish. I can’t begin to imagine why Kate would be motivated to go after Hanna like this; is it just regular catty teenage girl stuff or is something darker at play? Certainly the broken-horse metaphor doesn’t seem like the kind of thing teenagers normally toss around at one another, but they also don’t usually call each other “cranks,” so what do I know. I suppose it’s possible that Kate might be trying to establish herself as the top dog in the family, but I don’t think she’s got much to fight for there since Hanna’s lukewarm at best toward her dad right now.
9. What did the sketchy members of N.A.T. do during their club meetings?
Melissa: To me, it’s clear that they performed some kind of surveillance.  It would seem to be something illegal, since Garrett was insisting to Jason that their secret was “more important than ever” now that he’s a cop.  But I also wonder if it’s more than what we’ve thought.  I mean, was Ian just a peeping tom?  Clearly his pictures were somehow part of this all-seeing group…but why?  Is there some sort of espionage angle that we could work?  That might explain why Spencer’s dad was freaking out.  I hope there is espionage.  I love spies.
Sarah: I think they made creepy videos of local teenage girls and/or they were superspies who made it their business to know the business of everyone in all of Rosewood… which would set them up perfectly to either be Ali’s killer OR to be A (because as the Big Brother of Rosewood they would have seen what happened the night that Ali died). Also, potentially they just were big fans of periscopes and we’re all making a mountain out of a molehill.
10. What clubs would you guess each of the PLLs would belong to?
Melissa: I made up clubs for each of them.
Emily – Accidental Drug Users of America
Aria – Bad Hair Experiments Club
Hannah – The Sassy Flasks
Spencer – Club Presidents Club
Spencer: Fencing, Polo (natch), Speech and Debate, Student Council, Party Planning, all clubs
Hanna: Yearbook, Party Planning, Outdoor Adventures (for old-school camping Hanna)
Aria: Literary Magazine, Drama Club
Emily: Swimming, Model U.N. (cause she’s such a peacemaker), Habitats for Humanity or another charitable cause

11. What do you think is going to happen with Dr. Therapy Anne?
Melissa: The trailer for next week seems to promise some kind of big reveal.  I hope Anne helps solve the mystery.  But I’m just not sure if I should trust her yet.  A broke into her office; A then set up a meeting in her office.  I think Anne might mean well but she’s been totally infiltrated.  And thus, I have a sense she might end up dead.  I know, kind of a leap.  But the plot needs some more collateral damage, and she seems the most likely candidate.
Sarah: I’m worried she’s going to bite the dust in the next episode, particularly because the previews show her saying she knows who A is. When Hanna thought she knew who A was, she got hit by a car, and when Spencer thought she knew, she almost got pushed off a bell tower—so it doesn’t bode well…

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